Samuel L. Katz was born in 1927 and raised in Manchester, New Hampshire. Katz began his undergraduate studies at Dartmouth College in 1944. In 1945, he joined the Navy and was sent to San Diego to attend hospital training school. Afterwards, he returned to Dartmouth and completed the undergraduate premed requirements, graduating in 1948. He then attended Dartmouth Medical School, which, at the time, was a two-year preclinical program and received a BMS in 1950. Katz completed his MD at Harvard Medical School in 1952. He had internships at Beth Israel Hospital followed by a residency in pediatrics at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Boston Children's Hospital. Katz also completed a research fellowship in virology and infectious diseases at Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Katz joined the Duke University School of Medicine faculty as chair of pediatrics in 1968 and led the department until 1990.
Katz's early medical experiences with polio, brought him into contact with John Enders, a noted virologist awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology in 1954 for his work on culturing the poliovirus. While a staff member at Boston Children's Hospital, Katz worked with Enders’ for twelve years to develop the attenuated measles virus vaccine. The work was published in 1962, and the vaccine was licensed in 1963. By 1968 the incidence of measles in the United States had dropped to less than 10 percent. Throughout his career, Katz traveled to Central America, South America, China, Japan, Southeast Asia, and sub-Saharan nations to advocate for the use of the measles and other vaccines to protect all infants and children.
In addition to his work on measles, Katz was involved in studies of many other pathogens and infectious diseases, including vaccinia, polio, rubella, influenza, pertussis, HIV, and Haemophilus influenzae b conjugates, including clinical studies of HIV-infected infants and children and clinical evaluation of viral vaccines. Katz has chaired the Committee on Infectious Diseases of the American Academy of Pediatrics (the Redbook Committee), the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) of the Centers for Disease Control, the Vaccine Priorities Study of the Institute of Medicine (IOM), and several World Health Organization (WHO) and CVI vaccine and HIV panels. He is a member of many scientific advisory committees and boards, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the IOM, and the WHO. He was Chairman of the Public Policy Council of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) and co-chaired IDSA's Vaccine Initiative.
Katz has received numerous awards including Distinguished Teacher Award, Duke Medical School Alumni (1987); Presidential Medal, Dartmouth College (1991); Honorary Doctor of Science degrees from Georgetown University (1996) and Dartmouth College (1998); Sabin Gold Medal (2003), and the Maimonides Award (2007).
This oral history interview was conducted with Dr. Samuel Katz on May 10, 2007 by Jessica Roseberry.